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Some Thoughts and Reflections on Our Lifetree Cafe Experience

If you follow this blog, or just see my hashtag and ‘@’ filled tweets, you know that I’m involved with a ministry called Lifetree Cafe (http://www NULL.lifetreecafe  It’s an outreach that our church has been excited about and building for over a year now, and we’re seeing more and more success as the months go on.

Recently, Craig Cable, the national director for Lifetree, asked those of us who worked as cafe directors to answer a few questions about our experience with the ministry, and to give some words to those who might be thinking about bringing this fantastic new ministry to their communities.  I thought it might be helpful for me to share this conversation, so below I’ve listed the questions Craig asked, followed by my responses.  Hope this helps anyone out there looking for a new way to revitalize your ministry.  If you’d like more info, please feel free to contact me!

Will people really come Lifetree?

People absolutely do come to Lifetree.  And it’s definitely not always those you’d expect.  Most of our first-time attendees come for a particular topic that has caught their attention (ie. “What Muslims Really Think of You”), but they come back because they connect with the people and the atmosphere at Lifetree.  For us, one of the most exciting things to see is where someone we didn’t expect to ever see in a church setting not only comes, but comes back — and brings a friend.

Will volunteers really step forward to serve?

Lifetree has been a great place for us to plug in church members who haven’t seemed to find any other place to connect and serve.  They love that we give them a chance to take ownership in something so alive and real, and at the same time they’re not so busy “serving” that they don’t get to experience the ministry. Our volunteers, referred to as our “Friendship Team”, have nearly a 100% attendance rate at our weekly gatherings.  They arrive early, and stay late, not only to set up and take down the room, but to engage in the conversations that are taking place each week.

Do people find their way from Lifetree to the church?

In our experience with Lifetree, the path between Lifetree and church has gone both ways.  We have church members who are looking for something new and fresh, and they find that in what Lifetree offers.  At the same time, we have had community members who weren’t involved in the church who have made their way into the doors of Lifetree.  From this first experience with our community, they have begun to develop relationships that will lead to greater involvement not only in our church, but in the church as a whole.

Should I host a Lifetree at my church or at a coffeehouse?

I would say that where you host Lifetree depends on who you want to target with the ministry.  For our church, the original plan was to host Lifetree at a location away from the church site.  We have chosen to use the ministry as a way to target college students and young adults, so we felt that an off-site location would be best.  But, God seemed to have another plan and we are now hosted within the walls of our church.  We’ve found that promotion and targeting change based on the location, but either place is perfectly suitable for a successful café.  Again, my advice would be to seek God’s plan for the ministry, and go as He leads you.

What benefit is there to bring several people to training?

Not only is outstanding material offered in training, but the experience itself is worth the trip.  We were blessed with the ability to bring our entire leadership team to training, and we grew together as we grew the ministry.  The three days we were on-site for our training were some of the best team building days we’ve had.  There’s a great mix of intensive training sessions and relaxing time to grow in your own faith, and I would recommend that the whole leadership team take part if at all possible.

Why wouldn’t we just do this ourselves?

The resources offered not only in the weekly topics, but through the support you get from the entire Lifetree staff, is world-class.  Even if we were somehow able to develop the list of topics covered in Lifetree on our own (a task for which I do not possess the creative ability), we would never be able to match the production quality that we get week in and week out from Lifetree.  The exclusive videos, along with the host scripts, are always fantastic.  These topics and high quality materials are no small part of why attendees keep coming back each week.  Our church simply doesn’t have the capability to create these types of resources on our own.

What will Lifetree do for my existing church members?

We’ve seen Lifetree become a place that existing church members can get involved in ways they’ve maybe never been involved before.  Volunteers who always wanted to share their faith, but had trouble starting the conversation, now have a place where that discussion comes naturally.  Those who love to serve by just being a smiling face also find a home at Lifetree.  It’s quickly become an adopted member of our church’s family of ministries.

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